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Activities to encourage authentic engagement

submitted by:

Srividya “Srivi” Ramasubramanian

Professor of Communication and Presidential Impact Fellow

  September 01, 2020

Here are some tips that worked to helped in student interactivity in my synchronous class:

De-Stress Ball Game:
We did this on the first day of class as an ice-breaker. Catch a (virtual) ball thrown to you by a peer. Share one thing that has been stressing you. And then call out a classmate’s name and throw the ball to them. This game helps to normalize the fact that all of us are facing many multiple stressors. Since we play this as a fun ball game, the “catching” and “throwing” aspects of it usually generate giggles and helps us calm down. Students shared many useful resources and words of support to help one another cope during this exercise.

Introductions Video
I did a short video to introduce myself and included some fun things such as “where I would have loved to quarantine.” Apart from my professional aspects, I also shared a little about my hobbies and interests so the students know that “I do have a life” 😊 . I asked students to either upload a similar short video or a photo of theirs with a short paragraph. This exercise was a big hit.

Meaningful / Murky Concepts:
At the end of each class, we use breakout rooms where students go over that day’s materials for 15 minutes in small groups and jot down which concepts they found most memorable or meaningful and which ones they found muddy/murky. This is a great peer-learning opportunity and for the instructor, it tells you what are the points that still need further elaboration. At the beginning of the next class or in a short video the instructor can address the murky concepts before going to the next unit.

"My Two Cents" Game:
Everyone is given “two cents” virtually by the teacher. Students need to pay their “virtual cent” to the class when they share their thoughts. This way, everyone in class gets at least two chances to speak up and share their thoughts.